Outdoor Industry Association says looming tariffs could raise prices

Outdoor Industry Association says looming tariffs could raise prices

Nov. 19–The Obama Administration’s opposition to outdoor industry duty suspension bills has potentially devastating consequences for outdoor equipment manufacturers, suppliers and retailers, the Outdoor Industry Association said Monday.

The Boulder, Colo. -based association, which includes several Portland-area companies among its members, said in a news release that tariffs set to take effect in January would result in cost increases as high as 38 percent.

Many of these duty-suspension bills have been in place since 2006. The outdoor industry says the legislation ensures competitive retail prices for the its products.

The Administration announced late Friday that it is formally opposing outdoor industry duty-suspension bills.

“It caught us by surprise,” said Peter Bragdon, vice president and general counsel of Columbia Sportswear Co. in Washington County.

Bragdon met for about three hours Monday at Columbia’s offices with an official from the Office of the U. S. Trade Representative.

While the Administration’s declaration came up in conversation, it was not the centerpiece of discussion, Bragdon said.

He said the visit by Douglas Bell, assistant U. S. Trade Representative for Trade Policy and Economics, had been scheduled well in advance and that the discussion Monday included a wide range of topics.

Bell also visited separately with representatives of Nike and LaCrosse Footwear Inc. , his office said.

“The tariff system imposes a very large tax on this industry,” said Bragdon, who is a member of the outdoor association’s board. “In our view it has a negative impact on innovation on what consumers see and what they pay for it in the U. S. ”

The association, in its release, contended that the miscellaneous tariff bill “has allowed the industry to redirect more than $30 million in cost savings towards new American jobs, investments in innovation and lower prices for American families — while contributing to the health of the outdoor recreation economy. ”

Footwear tariff cuts are controversial in the United States, with U. S. footwear producers opposing them and importers pushing for them. The fight pits companies like Nike, which manufactures athletic shoes in Vietnam, against the few U. S. companies that still manufacture shoes in the United States, including New Balance and L. L. Bean.

However, the outdoor industry association says in its news release Monday that “it is vital that Congress overturn the Administration’s decision to ensure specialty retailer and manufacturer profits are not harmed. ”

— Allan Brettman; twitter. com/abrettman